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He’s Not A Naughty Boy, He’s The Messiah: Why We Should Reward the Good Behaviour And ‘Performance Art’ The Bad.

He’s Not A Naughty Boy, He’s The Messiah: Why We Should Reward the Good Behaviour And ‘Performance Art’ The Bad.
He’s Not A Naughty Boy, He’s The Messiah: Why We Should Reward the Good Behaviour And ‘Performance Art’ The Bad.
January 10, 2019 2:02 pm

He’s not naughty, he’s artistic. Autistic? No artistic. 

A great way of getting away with bad behaviour is not apologising for it but to instead, mysteriously insinuate that it was all a dramatic piece of ‘performance art’.

 I got this idea from reading Lena Dunham’s interview in ‘The Cut’. She came across as a bit of twat and the article poised the question: ‘Is this the real Lena Dunham or is it all a piece of performance art?’ Which is really fun if you sing to the tune of, Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.

‘Is this the real life or is this just fantasy?’

Offloading bad behaviour as having an artistic rhetoric is really cool. Maybe it explains why Louis CK chose to do love explosions all over female comics? Perhaps he’s influenced by the artist Jackson Pollock?

I like that we can explain away bad behaviour as ‘Performance Art’.

It means I can get away with a lot of stuff through the medium of Post Modern Self Expression. Like, last week, for example, when I took the bins out and left a bin juice trail from the kitchen to the front door and never mopped it up. When my boyfriend asked why I hadn’t cleaned it up instead of saying ‘feminism’ like I normally do I said it was ‘performance art’. The slimy and smelly trail represents the long and winding road of which we call ‘life’. The door symbolises the mysterious and impending after life where you can set your rubbish free. Deep, huh? My explanation left my boyfriend speechless. This is quite the result given the fact that he is ‘quintessentially American’, (doesn’t shut the hell up). He looked dumbfounded too, which is also very ‘quintessentially American’ so I put it in layman terms.*

*I like to play a game called ‘how many xenophobic comments can you make in an article before you start getting complaints?’

So I said to the loud American:

“You know when Kanye was acting all weird saying dodgy stuff about slavery and supporting Trump?”


“You know how people said it wasn’t because he was being a prick and it was all a piece of performance art?”


“Well that’s what I was doing with the bin juice trail. It’s not because I’m being a prick it’s ‘performance art’.”

He didn’t reply after that because he was doing his own little piece of ‘performance art’ entitled ‘me no speak, me play video games’. Which is all very well and good but it’s hardly going to win the Turner Prize. 

My own Mum and Dad were pretty ahead of their time regarding this issue. I remember they used to say that my epileptic seizures were pieces of ‘Performance Art’. Well, they didn’t use that exact term but they did say that I was attention seeking when I had a fit and they would tell me off for having them.

Yes, you’re right to get the violins out. I don’t mean to sound all Frank McCourt Angela’s Ashes about it but my childhood was tough.

My epileptic fits went sans diagnosis for a while. This is because I had a rare form of Epilepsy called ‘Petit Mal’ which literally translates as ‘small sickness in the head’, which is also the reason I give people when they ask why I do stand up.

So I didn’t have the traditional (Grand Mal) full blown twist and shake, frothing at the mouth, “my mother sucks cocks in hell” fits -not until I was older did I get those bad boys and I have the etched out ‘Fuck you’ scratches on my stomach to prove it).

Petit Mal epileptic seizures are characterised by the following behaviour:

staring into space and not responding

stopping abruptly in the middle of sentences

being unable to recall what’s taken place during this time.

Its unsurprising my parents didn’t realise I was having a seizure. These symptoms are the exact same symptoms my boyfriend has when he’s on his PlayStation. No wonder they thought I was doing my own little Lena Dunham style piece of ‘performance art’.

But let’s break it down, what is the definition of ‘Performance Art’? My extensive research on the subject (Wikipedia) concludes that its:

‘a performance presented to an audience within a fine art context. Performance may be either scripted or unscripted, random or carefully orchestrated, spontaneous or otherwise carefully planned with or without audience participation. The performance can be live or via media; the performer can be present or absent.”

So ‘performance art’ can explain why your dad fucked ran off when you were born.

It can also explain Theresa May’s ‘Brexit For Dummies’ act and people who talk about their vegan diet. (Note, I did not say vegans, that Gregg’s sausage roll was sublime).

Is ‘Performance Art’ the new excuse we give to explain people’s antisocial, destructive, abusive, antagonistic behaviour? Is it all just art for fuck’s sake?

I certainly hope so!

Saying someone’s volatile behaviour is down to ‘performance art’ restores my faith in the human condition, (like all great art should). It means people aren’t being dicks! What a relief.

I now feel so blessed to come from such an artistic family. In retrospect my family have produced some epic pieces of ‘performance art’ over the years. I think my Dad is even doing a little work in progress show right now actually, so stay tuned. Like all great art their ‘installations’ have often split the crowd as well as split the family. Infidelity, alcoholism, prison sentences, divorces, second marriages and accusing family members of theft – makes Tracey Emin’s ‘The Unmade Bed’ feel like something you’d patronisingly stick on the fridge in comparison.

The real irony is I actually did a module at university in ‘Performance Art’ where I rolled around naked in flour on a site specific theatre piece in the middle of the Yorkshire moors and grabbed and molested a random audience member (this was pre #metoo in the good old days when you could do that kind of thing). If I’d known, all you needed to do was be a bit of knob to pass the module I would have definitely opted for that. I could have passed several modules in Freshers’ week alone.

The thing that gets me is how do you know when someone is practising ‘Performance Art’ and when someone is just being a dick?

How do you know if someone is more Prize Idiot than Turner Prize? Less Artsy and more Fartsy? Less Tracey Emin more Tracey from Corrie? Less Tate Modern more Tate Donovan?

Well ask yourself these questions:

Is the person receiving loads of attention from their behaviour?

Is the person refusing to apologise or back down?

Is the person sending out a provocative message about the status quo?

Is the person in question a celebrity?

If you answered yes to all these, particularly the last one, then it’s very likely that the person is practicing and expressing ‘performance art’, if you answered ‘no’ to any of the questions, particularly the last one, then I’m afraid to say, they’re just being a dick.

“The principles of true art is not to portray, but to evoke.” Jerzy Kosinski

Zahra is at Dave Leicester Comedy Festivalon Sunday 10th February with her show, Things I Shouldn’t Say

Follow Zahra on Twitter + Instagram

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